Even though Joseph is not Jesus’ biological father, Jesus becomes a part of Joseph’s story; the inheritor and adopted child of the whole line of God’s promises. Our story as Christians is also one of adoption. We were destined for adoption as God’s children through Jesus Christ.
When women in the Bible have something to say, it often comes out as a song. Mary’s song, recounted in Luke 1, is revolutionary. God is on the side of the dispossessed and Mary sings of the revolution taking place through God’s world-toppling love.
Melissa’s message was preceded by a video recitation of the Magnificat read by RMC women with Sweet Honey in the Rock’s “We are the One’s” in the background and powerful images of revolutionary women.
On this second Sunday of Advent, Melissa told us, “this is a season to be shaken up and shaken out.”
Christians have a profound failure to live out the Gospel, but we’re also attuned to our failure. We require outside intervention and Jesus comes through an intervention of love. It’s time to be shaken and brought to the full realization of ourselves.
Melissa began with a short video clip (:40-1:15) showing the reunion between a lioness and her two early caretakers.
Food is political. Eating is a kind of politics. Isaiah offers this vision of the the end of all things, centering around a meal. In this passage, all things, all people, are reconciled in God. Everything bruised and damaged is made whole, but also those who bruise and damage are made whole. We’re all there together sharing the joy and intimacy of food.
With Veterans Day last Monday, Melissa admonishes us to advocate for veterans who have come back from military service. While this may seem like a contradiction for pacifists, it is an act of reconciliation. Veterans are also victims; victims of systems of war. When they return from war, they often suffer from moral injury.
What did you bring today that you have not said aloud? What corner of sorrow have you left covered?
We work without pause, return again to a race for efficiency, too busy to attend to the grief we bury in our chests. So pause here… Pause here among others who have come to take your sorrow in their hands and among those who ask you to carry theirs. The backbone of lament is not despair; it is hope.
Whatever you bring today is good. Whatever you bear is holy.
Melissa’s meditation this morning preceded the opportunity to offer up our lamentations, write them on slips of paper and affix them to the cross.
The book of Ecclesiastes is a strange book to have in our canon. It’s a pessimistic book that veers into sarcasm, and it has no issue telling you exactly how life is in the world. A book for the frustrated and the cynical.
It’s comforting to know that the Bible has room for all of us. What we see here is not a reflection of how God is; God’s justice is a mystery. What do you do with the arbitrariness of life as it’s spelled out in this book? You look for flashes of joy when they come!
We were given the opportunity to share an instance in the last week where we saw a sign of God’s love in the vapor of this troubled world. Those instances were shared with the congregation.
(Note: the audio begins a bit low, but gets louder about 15 seconds in.)
History isn’t recorded, it’s interpreted. Melissa begins her sermon this Sunday by telling about the Bible study she is co-leading on the grounds of the state capitol that compares the Confederate monuments with idolatry.
Rather than statues, we need to tell stories to one another. Stories of how God’s love extends to all of creation. Stories of grace and of uncoerced welcome.
This Sunday Melissa wove together an explanation for the Levitical rules for what meat was clean and unclean with both the current climate change crisis and our focus with A Year at the Table.
Human lust for domination over creation is the root cause of climate change. God loves the whole world and is in covenant with creation. Life belongs to God.
Melissa began her sermon talking about her many visits to A Place at the Table. Unfortunately, the first two minutes were not recorded, so we pick up from her comparison of A Place at the Table with the story of the three strangers who visit Abraham and Sarah at the oaks at Mamre. Abraham welcomes the strangers and brings Abraham and Sarah’s best for them.
What can we learn about the gathering tables in our community? Where is God present or absent? As we break bread at these tables, we’re invited to observe, to be hospitable and take part in the hospitality, and be witness to the divine presence.
Our lives are dependent upon creation, just as they’re dependent upon a loving, creative God. Every time we eat, we are reminded that we do not control the world. We are reminded that our very existence is a gift.
Melissa continued the series focused on Hebrews in this morning’s message. What is faith in the midst of political distress, in a government hellbent on terrorizing the vulnerable?
It’s the failures of the people talked about in this Hebrews passage that animates our faith to continue on. They provide hope because of their brokenness. If they can be used by God, there is hope for us. We are creatures of grace, and that can give us hope.
by Melissa Florer-Bixler
A blog entry in response to our “A Year at the Table” series.
It seemed fitting to me that we began our year of exploration and reflection on Communion practice in grace. Babette’s Feast, the first in our film series featuring movies about food and faith, is a story about grace received in a meal. It works around the tensions of mercy and commitment, of righteousness and joy, of holiness and pleasure.
In the story a young woman arrives on the shores of a small Danish fishing village. We discover that she is a refugee escaping civil war in France. She becomes the devoted servant of two elderly sisters, who in their youth, each gave up a chance at love and happiness – one through marriage the other through a singing career – in order to serve the ministry of their father, the leader of a Dutch Calvinist sect. Through a series of events, we can call them grace or chance, Babette comes into the sisters’ lives.
In the background of the film are the themes of regret and choice. How do we make choices and what do we do when we look back on regret at what we have done in our lives? Each of the characters faces these questions.
The apex of the film is a French meal cooked by Babette. We come to discover that in her previous life in France she was a celebrated chef. She wins the lottery and instead of spending the money to return to her life in France, as the sisters expect with sadness will be the result, she spends the entire sum, 10,000 francs, on a celebration meal for the remaining apostles of the sect.
The meal is grace. It is beauty and pleasure, righteousness and mercy kissing one another. Old hurts are overcome. Love that has been shamed is brought into the open. Regrets are lost in the hope and possibility of God’s constant provision, even when it is least expected.
The next day when we celebrated Communion as a church I had this scene in the back of my mind. The excess and abundance of Babette’s meal, her gratuitous and unmerited gift.
During the meal the captain, the would-be-lover of the older sister, who returned to see her once more in his old age, offers a speech. While it doesn’t capture the beauty and pleasure of the meal, the color and scent and taste that waft from the screen, it puts to words the grace that flows through the meal, a grace and joy I hope will infuse itself into our church’s practice of the Lord’s Supper:
Grace, my friends, demands nothing from us but that we shall await it with conﬁdence and acknowledge it in gratitude. Grace, brothers, makes no conditions and singles out none of us in particular; grace takes us all to its bosom and proclaims general amnesty. See! that which we have chosen is given us, and that which we have refused is, also and at the same time, granted us. Ay, that which we have rejected is poured upon us abundantly. For mercy and truth have met together and righteousness and bliss have kissed one another!
Hope seen through Arethra Franklin, the Holy Spirit, and our own congregation.